Halo Twenty-Two: Shinra:
“[Has you dad explained why he keeps dragging you around to these tadpoles or whatever?]” Celty typed on her PDA. Shinra shrugged.
“No,” he said. “But he did let it slip about someone called the Woman in Red. Does that ring a bell?”
“[Vaguely. I remember hearing something about her. Why? What about her?]”
“Dad won’t tell me anything else.” The underground doctor rubbed his forehead. “The whole thing isn’t adding up.” Between looking up information about the defunct Chou Mori and trailing Tetsu, he barely had time for Celty anymore. The one time that he had time with his girlfriend work had to tag along. The dullahan leaned back on the couch.
“[Is there something you aren’t telling me?]” she typed. Shinra glanced up at her. He knew that it would come to this point. Time to be vague and dodge her question. But when the doctor opened his mouth, there was a knock on the door.
“[Who is that?]” Celty typed.
“I don’t know…” Shinra said. He got up and walked over to the door. The doctor opened it a crack and peeked out. Michiko looked up, shuffling her feet.
“Is Kishitani-sensei in right now?” she asked in a small voice. “I need to talk to him. This is really urgent.” Shinra opened the door wider with a puzzled look on his face. Michiko placed her hand to her chest and breathed out.
“Oh good,” she said. “We need to talk.”
“Uh… who are you?” Shinra asked.
“I’ll tell you as soon as you let me in,” Michiko said. “Please we don’t have much time!” The underground doctor noticed the desperate look in the young girl’s eyes. She bit on her lower lip as she paced around.
“Alright,” he said. Michiko bowed her head and walked into the apartment. Shinra closed the door behind her. The young girl happened to turned towards the bookcase and all of the color drained from her face.
“No…” she murmured. “No, no. No! It’s gone! Oh no!”
“What are you talking about?” Shinra asked. Michiko turned to him with big eyes.
“Where the doll that was sitting there?” she asked.
“Doll?” the doctor asked.
“I had a really pretty doll with blue eyes and this black and blue dress! What happened to it?”
It took the underground doctor a few seconds to figure out what she was saying. “Oh, that doll.” Shinra gave off a nervous laugh. “Uh… a friend of ours destroyed it back in August and put a whole through our wall. Yeah…” Michiko’s eyes widened as she shook her head.
“Your friend should not have done that,” she said in a low voice.
“Why?” Shinra asked.
-Inner Circle Meeting-
Kitano called in the inner circle for another meeting.
“Things have been going well in this cycle,” he opened with. “The Blue Squares are dead, the experiments with the tadpoles are going great, and we have successfully opened two of the gates.” The inner circle applauded.
“Thank you,” Kitano said. He turned to Etsuko sitting beside him. “Do we still have those red pills ready?”
“Yes,” the doctor said. She held the baggie of red pills in her hand.
“Good, good,” Kitano said. He turned to the rest of his inner circle. “We still have work to do, however.” The psychiatrist ran his finger across his tablet. Footage of a map appeared on the screen.
“We have learned that Michiko-san has formed a countermeasure against our plans,” he said. Aya gritted her teeth.
“That little brat managed to get one over us anyway,” she said.
“She’s not a brat, Otomo-sensei,” Kitano said. “She is thirty-seven years old, remember?”
Aya pushed back her bangs. “She’s still a brat to me.”
“Anyway, the interns are out hunting down those dolls,” Kitano said. “However, that still leaves us with the different gangs tied to the children.” The slide changed to a picture of Mikado and his friends. Aya stood up and walked over to Kitano’s side.
“Our plan for isolation is working, but it’s not going fast enough,” she said.
“Thank you,” their founder said. “Do you have the next batch of Mnemosyne ready, Asato-sensei?”
“Why yes,” she said. “We still have a couple of problems.” Kitano moved his finger along the tablet screen. A series of photos went by on the projector screen.
“Nebula,” he said. “Russia, England, Heiwajima Shizuo, and Celty Sturluson.” The rest of the inner circle frowned. The first one was a cat and mouse game that was so annoying. Second and third were easy to deal with. But the last two…
“Yeah,” Etsuko said.
“What do we do with Heiwajima-san and the dullahan?” Daichi asked. Nobody had an answer.
“Can’t kill a dullahan,” Junko said. “And she’s too powerful, with or without her head.”
“Then there’s the minotaur,” Etsuko said.
“Again with the Greek mythology?” Osamu asked.
“I think it fits him well,” the doctor said. “Half-man, half-beast. Heiwajima-san is the perfect minotaur.”
“Either way, he is an obstacle in our game,” Kitano said.
“We need to tame the minotaur,” Etsuko said. “He must have weaknesses.”
“Shooting him won’t work,” Osamu said. “That is one indestructible son of a bitch.” Junko sketched Shizuo as a minotaur on her tablet, but shuddered as the results and erased her doodle with her finger.
“We still have one more problem to tend to,” Aya muttered.
“What? The Trojan Horse?” Etsuko asked.
“Not him,” the younger psychiatrist said. “You’re already working on that.” She gritted her teeth as she spoke. Junko broke into a cat-like smile.
“Oh, your daughter’s little fuck buddy?” she asked. Osamu and Daichi looked at the nurse with alarmed looks on their faces.
“Shut up!” Aya shouted, banging her fists on the table. All eyes fell on her.
“What’s going on?” Daichi asked.
“Oh don’t you know?” Junko asked.
“Shut your whore mouth, Junko,” Aya hissed. “I am warning you.” The nurse leaned back, smirking.
“Orihara-san and lovely Mari-chan are shagging,” she said. Junko’s grin faded when Osamu and Daichi still had dumb looks on their faces. She threw back her head and groaned. I hate explaining myself to them sometimes, the nurse thought.
“They’re fucking!” she blurted out. “Orihara-san and lovely Mari-chan are fucking.” Aya glared at her with blood in her eyes.
“You!” she snapped.
“What?!” Osamu barked.
“You can’t be serious,” Daichi said, covering his mouth.
“It’s true,” Junko said as she regained her cocky air about her. “They’ve been together since last month.” Aya chucked a pen at the nurse’s head.
“That’s enough!” she shouted. Junko caught the pen between her fingers with a cat-like smirk.
“What’s the matter, can’t handle the truth?” she asked.
“Shut up!” Aya snapped. Kitano cleared his throat loudly. All eyes directed back over to him.
“Let’s get back on focus,” he said. “As of right now, we will leave the bored little child be.”
“Kitano-sensei!” Aya wailed.
“Hear me out,” he said. “It’s better than your daughter serve as a distraction than to have that bored little child running around and interfering with our game. I’m sorry, but if your daughter is going to be the one to slow him down, I won’t complain.” He noticed the annoyed look on Aya’s face as she rolled her eyes.
“Rest assured, we will kill that board little child when the time is right,” he said. Aya began to perk up.
“You really mean it?” she asked.
“Yes,” Kitano said. “But for now, we will all carry on with business as usual until the dolls are destroyed and we find the other five gates. That is all.” The inner circle departed for the night. Kitano didn’t move until everyone else walked out the door. Etsuko paused and looked over her shoulder.
“Have some paperwork to catch up on?” she asked.
“You can say that,” Kitano replied as he pulled out his cell phone. He handed to his old messages in saved folder.
“Understood,” his second-in-command said. “Good night.” Kitano watched as she walked out the door. He opened the folder in his phone and selected all of his conversations with Yadogiri and hit delete.
The therapist began to reflect back to the day he was assigned Mikado’s case two years earlier.
-Shinra, Celty, and Michiko-
“What was so important about that doll we had on the bookcase?” Shinra asked as he handed Michiko tea. Her hands trembled as she held the mug.
“It was meant to conceal something,” she said in a low voice. The young girl looked up at Celty.
“Tell me, haven’t you noticed anything different about this city? Anything out of place?” she asked.
“[I have seen many creepy-looking cats around the city lately,]” the dullahan typed on her PDA.
“[Some people seem to have like mask like faces when I walk by them. I could’ve sworn I heard one of them hissing at me.]”
Michiko rubbed her forehead. “Bakeneko and hitei-oni.” She puffed up her cheeks and looked at the couple.
“A friend of mine and I had set those dolls up all over the city to keep the gates hidden,” she said. Shinra walked out of the living room and headed over to his computer. He returned with the map that Shingen had left with him.
“These gates?” the doctor asked as placed the map on the coffee table.
“Yes,” Michiko said. “Those dolls were warded with a spell to hide the high energy the gates were giving off. But now it seems that Tandeki has caught on and are going to destroy them.”
“[Why are you trying to hide these gates?]” Celty typed. “[Are these bakeneko and hitei-oni involved somehow?]”
“Much worse,” Michiko said. “Tandeki is trying to bring the End of Days.”
“Like the apocalypse?” Shinra asked.
“Yes,” the young girl said. Her hands trembled in her lap.
-Mikado and Masaomi-
Masaomi’s questions unwittingly opened more memories for Mikado.
“It doesn’t make sense,” the blonde-haired boy said.
“What doesn’t?” Mikado asked at his computer.
“How exactly did you end up at Chou Mori?” Masaomi asked on his friend’s futon. Mikado stopped typing on the keyboard. [A flash of a white room appeared in his mind for a quick second.]
“I told you I don’t know,” the tadpole boy said in a low voice. “They said I committed murder in a gang fight.” [The intern with the crimson nails strapped him down to a metal table.]
“Somehow, I find that hard to believe,” Masaomi said. [Mikado began to see his mouth forced open as a giant syringe needle inched closer and closer to his tongue.]
“Are you calling me a liar?” he asked in a trembling voice. “You think I’m making all of this up? You don’t think I was actually in Chou Mori? You don’t think they tortured me there?” [Another IV with a light pink fluid drained into his arm as he lay in his bed.] His eyes widened as he grew pale. Masaomi shook his head.
“No, I believe you,” he said. “I just don’t believe the reason why.” [A thick leather strap was forced into Mikado’s mouth before pads were pressed to his forehead.] Masaomi’s calm tone did little to put the tadpole boy at ease.
“What do you mean?” Mikado asked. [The intern with the crimson nails caressed his cheek before moving down his pants.] Masaomi walked over to Mikado at his computer.
“What if you believe the reason you were put in Chou Mori was real, but it actually wasn’t?” he asked.
“What?” Mikado asked.
[“Don’t worry, Chirin-kun,” Kitano told the tadpole patient after he was injected in the heart with another experimental drug. “It will feel like you’re being torn apart from the inside at first, but your body will get used to it.” He patted the patient on the head.] Masaomi pulled up a bookmark on his phone.
“I was bored yesterday and ended up looking around at the crimes around the city from two years ago,” he said. “There are no reports about a gang fight in a warehouse.”
“No, that can’t be right,” Mikado said, shaking his head. “I remember it all perfectly. All of that blood on the ground and on my clothes. I wore my gun glove on my hand. I… I…” His breathing grew heavier as he broke into a cold sweat.
[Mikado found himself in the same room that Kohaku was for the film. He too wore the strange head gear that kept his head forward to a screen while wires held his eyes open. Etsuko injected him with the same needle with the same drug.
“Stay awake, Chirin!” Kitano shouted. The film seemed to go on forever. Mikado didn’t know how long he could stay conscious through this jarring movie.]
The tadpole boy quickly looked up. Masaomi shook him on the shoulder.
“Are you feeling okay, man?” he asked. Mikado slowly nodded as he panted.
“No one was reported missing or dead that month either,” Masaomi said.
“So… what does that mean?” Mikado asked. His friend put his hand on his head.
“I think you were set up.”
Masaomi grabbed him by the cheeks. “Stay focused, man. I want you to think for a minute. Calm down and think, okay?”
His friend gulped as he nodded. His vision was still blurry from all of the flashbacks he was experiencing. Even through that, he could see Masaomi’s eyes as clear as day. His friend pressed his lips together.
“Good. Now, who would hate you enough to have you set up to have committed?” he asked. Mikado shook his head with bewildered eyes.
“I… I… I don’t know,” he said. “Why would somebody do that to me?” All of that confirmed a theory that Masaomi was working on since yesterday morning.
-Shinra, Celty, and Michiko-
“What do you mean bring the End of Days?” Shinra asked. “And how?”
“Kitano-sensei wants to free the Woman in Red,” Michiko said.
“Who is the Woman in Red?” the underground doctor asked. The young girl stared at him with big eyes.
“I can’t describe in words,” she said. “There is are many stories about her, but one thing remains constant. She is deadly enough to wipe us out.” Michiko drew her knees to her chest.
“Oh, this is bad,” she said. “They’ve already found two gates on my watch.” Her eyes locked on Shinra and Celty.
“Your friend shouldn’t have destroyed that doll,” Michiko said in a low voice. “He might have damned us all.”
“[I don’t understand,]” Celty typed.
“Understand what?” Michiko asked.
“[Why are you telling us this?]”
The young girl turned to a nervous-looking Shinra. “You haven’t told her, have you?”
“[Told me what? Shinra, what’s going?]” Celty typed to her boyfriend. The underground doctor cursed himself. He hoped not to drag the dullahan into this project.
“Uh, well…” Shinra began as he could see his girlfriend “glaring” at him.
Just like last time, Michiko thought as she rubbed her forehead.
Across the neighborhood, Etsuko had in her earbuds in her phone while she writing out formulas for new drugs to use in experiments for Project Tadpole. She smirked as she listened to Shinra try to explain to Celty what was going in the game.
“Careful Cassandra,” the doctor said to herself. “You’re running your mouth to the Trojan Horse and the dullahan again. You wouldn’t something bad to happen to the little horsey again, would you?” Etsuko snickered as got started on the next formula.
The blind woman walked up to Rakuei Gym. She tapped around with her cane and put her hand to her chest. A giant shock vibrated through her chest.
“Here it is!” she said. Tiresias reached into her hair and pulled out a silvery-blue pin.
Inside, Mikage was closing up from the night when she looked out the window to see a woman with black sunglasses sticking something into the ground in front of the door. What is she doing out there? The instructor went outside to investigate. By the time she stepped out of the gym, the woman had vanished. Mikage looked around.
“Now where did she go?” she asked.
“Hey, sis, what are you doing looking around out there for?” Eijirou asked inside the gym. Mikage turned and looked.
“Just thought I saw someone standing around, looking lost,” she said. Mikage closed the door behind her, not noticing the silvery-blue pin planted firmly into the ground.